Updated: February 25, 2021
Matthew Lee, an independent journalist who was banned on Friday from covering the United Nations, declared that his tough questions on corruption and Cameroon earned him the ban. But the United Nations said he was banned because of his behaviors that fell far below journalistic standards.
The United Nations on Friday handed a letter to Lee informing him that he had been banned permanently. The letter was signed by Alison Smale, UN Under Secretary-General for Global Communications.
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Smale said Lee’s “conduct has consistently breached” the UN’s media guidelines and “does not meet the established professional standards required of all correspondents granted access to United Nations premises.” As a result, his accreditation to cover the UN has been withdrawn.
“This is censorship pure and simply by [UN Secretary General] Antonio Guterres who doesn’t like my questions on corruption and Cameroon,” Lee wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News shortly after receiving the letter.
Lee has long taken a different approach to covering the UN than many of his fellow journalists.
According to Buzzfeed, Lee’s been covering the United Nations since 2005, and for years was a constant presence in the room where the organization’s spokesperson would brief the press daily.
“The questions Lee would ask were often esoteric, focusing on issues that were off the news cycle or flying under the radar. The stories he posts are unedited and often extremely discursive, and are generally focused on the nitty-gritty of the way the UN is run, highlighting possible corruption or other alleged malpractice inside the organization,” Buzzfeed said in a comprehensive report.